Date: Thu, 20 Mar 2003
POLICE BRUTALITY AGAINST PEACEFUL AUSTIN PROTESTERS
just want someone to know what happened here
today...seems like there is a media blackout on austin,
today all day nearly 2000 people expressed their
opposition to the war on iraq by blocking traffic on the
main drag near the university of texas, then beginning
at rush hour marched very slowly with die-ins in the
intersections from the capitol to the main tourist
there were signs that said, "'Iraq' is arabic for
'Poland'" and "Iraqi lives are sacred too" and "Draft
the twins" (a reference to bush's daughters) and "Not in
my name" and so on.
dozens of riot police with no names, no badge numbers,
(unaccountable and anonymous) waited for night to fall
and then began "clearing" the street of protesters.
about 20 or so people committed to sit in the street in
an act of peaceful civil disobedience and be arrested
and the rest of us stayed on the sidewalks as witnesses.
with absolutely no cause a policeman approached those of
us on the sidewalk and sprayed us in the face with
pepper spray. when we complained that it was uncalled
for and that the sidewalk is public property, we were
told that "tonight it's not" and "we're about to spray
you again if you don't leave." we began walking with
the police walking behind us and they started to walk
faster and hitting us in the back with their batons,
screaming "move." we screamed that we WERE walking and
they had no cause or right to hit us in the back but
they kept doing it. as soon we were pushed far enough
away so as to block our view of those who were sitting
in the street, they began the arrests.
the chants of "this is what democracy looks like,
quickly turned to "this is what a police state looks
as we were pushed along off the sidewalk and into an
intersection, one of the riot police grabbed a young man
(right in front of me) who was chanting peacefully, just
like the hundreds of us who remained, and slammed him
onto the concrete. at the same time another cop sprayed
a woman at close range directly in the eyes with pepper
spray. the rest started running toward us to push us far
away so as not to see what was happening with the young
man who was on the ground.
all of this was completely, utterly, unprovoked. it
actually seemed as if they were trying to provoke a riot
so that they could become even more violent. it was
clear that this group of riot police had a sense that it
was accountable to no one and/or that they could do
absolutely anything and that they would be
protected/absolved at a higher (federal?) level.
my name is annette d'armata, i am a composer and human
rights activist. i was there with my partner, lourdes
perez, vocalist/songwriter and activist, and diana
hamad, of palestinian childrens' welfare fund, both of
whom were also pepper-sprayed in the face. there were
many other witnesses to what i wrote above. there were
several television cameras but to our knowledge nothing
was shown on the 10 p.m. news.
we are meeting tomorrow with latino community leaders,
city councilpeople and the mayor about these deplorable
actions against peaceful people. there are actions
planned every day while there is war.
please let the rest of the world know that austin is
overwhelmingly against war and the only reason you don't
hear about it is because it is not being reported.